Europe’s top court rules that EU courts can order Facebook to take down illegal content worldwide (FB)

  • Facebook was dealt a big blow by the European Court of Justice on Thursday.
  • The court ruled that if a piece of content is deemed illegal in the European Union, it has to be taken down worldwide — not just inside Europe.
  • The case was brought by an Austrian politician after she demanded the removal of a defamatory Facebook post about herself.
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A new ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) could spell trouble for Facebook.

Courts in the European Union can order Facebook to remove worldwide comments by users of its service that have been declared illegal, the European Union's highest court ruled on Thursday.

The court ruled that EU law, "does not preclude [Facebook] from being ordered to remove worldwide information disseminated via a social network platform." It will be up to member states to enforce this, according to the ruling.

The ruling stems from a case brought to an Austrian court by Eva Glawisching-Piesczek who demanded the removal of a Facebook post concerning her that the court found insulted and defamed her and which could be seen by any Facebook user.

Read more: Facebook reveals new details about its plan to build a supreme court to oversee content moderation on its platform

The original post linked to an article about Glawisching-Piesczek advocating for a minimum income for refugees, and called her a "traitor of the people" according to German news site Tagesschau.

"EU law does not preclude a host provider like Facebook from being ordered to remove identical and, in certain circumstances, equivalent comments previously declared to be illegal," the European Court of Justice said in a statement. This means that any copycat posts would have to be taken down. 

The ruling has drawn a new regulatory line in the sand for Facebook, which has struggled to moderate the hoards of content uploaded by its 2.4 billion monthly active users worldwide.

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